5 Years Ago Today

Five years ago today, I was getting ready for work.  I needed to drop my son off at daycare yet, and hadn’t made it out the door, when the phone rang.  It was Mimi, and the news was that the baby was on the way.  This caused little excitement, because the baby had been on the way once a week for the past month.

So I asked how sure Mimi was, and this time the water broke.  That’s a pretty sure sign that the baby REALLY was coming (or so I’m told) so we kicked it into high gear.

The son got dropped off at Nana’s, we headed to the hospital.  On the way, employers were called.  Arrangement had been in place, and as we rushed to the hospital, we activated them.

Once at the hospital, we rushed to the proper floor… asked about the birth mother…  and she WAS NOT THERE!

In a panic, we called Mimi.  Where was she?  Did she need a ride?  Did we need to go get her?  I had a vision of the birth mother stuck at her apartment giving birth RIGHT NOW and no one was there.  Mimi made some calls and assured us that wasn’t the case.  She was on her way.

Hours later, days from the way it felt, the birth mother arrived, and all sorts of things went haywire.  We gave the hospital our paperwork, showing we were the legal guardians of the baby as soon as it arrived.  The social worker refused to take the paperwork, saying she didn’t need it.  We were angry, but as long as we could be there for the birth, we didn’t want to rock the boat.

But it quickly became annoying.  Nurses would ask the birth mother what she was naming the baby.  She’s politely point to my wife and say “Ask the mother.”  Nurses openly scoffed at us, ignored us, and refused to accept us as in any way legitimately part of this baby’s family.

We tried to give the social worker the paperwork.  Again.  The court order, telling the hospital to treat us like the parents.  They refused to even read it.

Babies come the way babies do.  We were given the baby and a room next door to the delivery to meet with family.  I wasn’t in the room for the delivery, which trust me I’m fine with, and didn’t know at the time but the birth mother had problems.  She was bleeding and they couldn’t stop it.  Because the birth mother gave us the baby, and we took it next door, the nurses were reluctant but fine with it.  Not because the baby was ours, but because the birth mother approved.

For the next hour, while they worked on the birth mother, we thought things were better.  We got to hold our baby, we got to show our baby off to people who came by to check on us.  It ended abruptly.

We were taken upstairs to the maternity ward, but we were not given the nifty armbands that let us get the baby.  We weren’t given the room we had arranged for.  We weren’t given access at all, the baby was taken and slipped behind the glass, and we were banned from its life.

Again the birth mother came to our rescue, instructing the nurses to give my wife an armband, and let my wife do the first bath.  All our access to the child that was legally ours was granted us only at the insistence of the birth mother, who the hospital continually pushed to not allow us access.

When the birth mother, who didn’t understand what was going on, told them emphatically no.  That we were the parents, and our medical wishes were the ones that mattered, the hospital took it upon themselves to act.  Ignoring our paperwork again, the head nurse of the hospital maternity ward called us into a private meeting.  The purpose, to throw us out.  To educate us on the “law” and how we had no right to be there.  None.

Now one of the reasons we took the legal tactic we did was because my wife wanted to attempt to breast feed.  She’d been on hormones and using a pump and was ready.  Now the hospital was kicking us out, ruining that chance and that experience for my wife.  I was NOT happy.

Prior to the meeting, I called my lawyer, who went into high gear.  I went into the meeting angry, but fully expecting to be kicked out of the hospital.  Once that had happened I was going to go to my lawyer and demand we file suit and sue the hospital into the stone age for denying my wife access to our child.  I sat in the meeting as the head nurse lectured us about how it was going to be, and how we had to leave, and not come back until the day the baby could go home.  And then ONLY if the birth mother wanted us to.

I glared.  I stammered.  I did deep breaths to hold in my temper.

And the phone rang.

The head nurse took the call, and the social worker picked up with the lecture about how it was GOING to be.  The nurse tried to stop her as she stammered “Yes sir” over and over again on the phone.  She almost frantically tried to silence the social worker who ignorantly and arrogantly prattled on about how she new the law, that our order wasn’t valid, and the courts clearly hadn’t written it.  That there was NO WAY we had any legal right to our child.

The head nurse finally managed to shut the social worker up and handed her the phone.  The head nurse sat silently, all but glaring at us as the social worker went through a similar “Yes sir” session on the phone.  We stared back at them.  No one talked.

The social worker hung up the phone and looked at the head nurse.  She shrugged, and looked at the table.  The head nurse took a deep sigh.  She informed us that they had no rooms currently available but that we would get the next one.  We could see our child at any time, simply ask the floor nurse.  We were welcome to stay in the room we were in now, and could have guests and the baby in that room until a regular room was available.  She then got up and walked out.

What happened to bring about the change is unclear.  Our lawyer faxed the order over to the lawyer for the hospital.  That lawyer read the order and wasn’t happy with the advice he’d earlier given the social worker.  He was pretty upset, as I understand it, that the social worker didn’t immediately fax the court order to him.

In the end, we got the baby and the room.  And we walked out of the hospital not owing them a dime.  Neither us, nor the insurance, got billed for that birth.  Nor did the birth mother or her medicad.  The entire bill just… vanished.  The social worker came by later to apologize.  We never say the head nurse again.  We did get called later by the hospital to join a committee to review their adoptive parent procedures.  We declined, we were far to angry still.

So that’s the exciting story in the middle of the happiest day of my life.  I’m still bitter at the hospital about that, but later learned that the law had changed and we were the first Huntsville couple and one of the first in Alabama to adopt under the new law that allowed us to have custody the second the baby was born.  Huntsville Hospital was completely caught off guard by us.

But in the end, we had a healthy baby girl.  The drama was forgotten and the joy of that new life was ours.

Happy Birthday, my little groundhog…


10 thoughts on “5 Years Ago Today

  1. Happy anniversary of that (mostly) happy day. I personally know the nurse you’re talking about, and she’s really sweet, but she also has to be somewhat of a bulldog in order to keep that whole crazy floor running as smoothly as it can. I can actually picture her face during the entire meeting. I hope, in time, you have forgiven her for doing her job; she really is a dear.

    • While I wasn’t happy with the nurse, I was more upset with the social worker. She was the one that refused to even look at our paperwork. She was the one advising the nurse. And she was the one that got the hospital into trouble.

      But the nurse, all of them, clearly found the idea of adoption wrong. If not specifically wrong, unbelievable. They had no idea what the birth mother had gone through, nor any sympathy for what we’d gone through. Their judging looks, their shock at our desire to breast feed, clearly showed their disdain for us. Like we were somehow second class parents.

      So she may have been doing her job, but she and her staff made no attempt to make our job easier. So I guess I’ve forgiven her, but I haven’t forgotten.

      • You & she were very strong & very brave, and I feel that God put you there in that uncomfortable position to literally stomp down a new path the make the way smoother for those parents to follow. I know Scott & I wouldn’t have been that strong in such circumstances, and our second-guessing would have made things worse. In a place that sees the worst of people, and is easily accused of serving the interests of the elite & not the poor (ha!), the staff is very weary & wary & working under the tort-urous sword of Damocles.

        And while I find it hard to believe that any of the staff is against adoption, I CAN believe their bad attitude to breast feeding. Those babies have got to leave the hospital fat, happy & unjaundiced, to meet industry standards. Won’t happen on the 1st week of breastfeeding; this I know personally. They were very, very quick to offer formula to DLG, and every time I used a lactation consultant with either child, I felt like I knew more & was more supportive than they were. (And I’m not even a LLL militant.)

        BUT, a strong family is bringing up a very sweet & very strong little girl, who will in her own time, be an advocate for others. Happy, happy birthday (again), and many more happy returns.

  2. Runwolf, Thank you for sharing an experience that can only bring back memories of anger, suffering and injustice. I am so glad that you were able to do something to make sure they did not get away with their cruel and deliberate abuse of you, your wife and the bith mother. I wish I would have been able to do the same thing as I am still haunted with the horror I went through so many years ago. Good for you. Did you ever put in print what hospital that was? I sure hope so. Anyway thanks for sharing! How is your lucky boy doing ? Tell him I said he is so lucky to be chosen instead of the other way. He has a great Dad! Laurel Winn

  3. Sorry Runwolf , I just figured out that he is a she, which makes you REALLY lucky too! So who is Brian? Got the name I won’t forget, Huntsville. You know sometimes I’m just not all there! That is a guote from my mother. Arn’t you glad?????

  4. Wow. I just found your blog, and was curious as to what you had posted with the tag “adoption”, and wound up on this post. (My curiosity stems from the fact that I am a birth mother.) I can not believe HH staff members did this to you in 2005. (I believe your story, it’s just WHAT WERE THEY THINKING???)

    I gave birth to my daughter in 2000, at Athens Limestone Hospital. Both her (adoptive) mother and father (along with my mother and one of my grandmothers) were present for the delivery. Her father was able to cut her umbilical cord. As soon as she was found to be healthy, the nursing staff removed her from my room to finish cleaning her up, etc., with her parents right behind them. They had their own room in the Mother Baby unit until the baby was discharged. I was moved to a different floor in the hospital after several hours of recovery, where I stayed until I was discharged. This was all part of my birth plan. We didn’t have one ounce of problem from any hospital staff during our experience.

    We had already filled out every legal paper we could ahead of time, so after she was born, I had (I think) two papers to sign to complete the process of granting them custody/guardianship until the final hearing before the judge.

    I just can’t seem to grasp the facts that Athens-Limestone Hospital provided us such a wonderful experience, while HH (supposedly a more progressive facility in every way) tried pulling that crap on your family.

    Glad it eventually worked out for your family before anyone had to leave the hospital.

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